Snooker: Ebdon claims first place in last eight

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The Independent Online

Peter Ebdon became the first player into the quarter-finals of the World Championship with victory over Mark King last night in Sheffield. The 2002 champion ground out a 13-9 win over left-hander King and will face either Shaun Murphy or Ali Carter in the last eight at the Crucible.

Ebdon began the evening session with a 9-6 lead and quickly extended that to 11-6 with consecutive breaks of 79. King battled back to take the next two frames with the help of a break of 121 before Ebdon edged closer to the winning line by winning a scrappy 20th frame. King, a surprise winner over last year's runner-up Mark Selby in the first round, produced a break of 79 to stay alive but Ebdon's run of 54 in the next ultimately proved enough to seal victory.

Seven-time champion Stephen Hendry threatened to join Ebdon in the quarter-finals with a session to spare when he raced into a shock 10-2 lead over Ding Junhui. Ding managed a highest break of just 26 in the opening seven frames and looked like throwing in the towel after missing the black off its spot to trail 9-2, conceding the frame even though Hendry still needed to pot the black.

But the 21-year-old showed commendable determination to win three of the last four frames, although at 11-5 he still has a mountain to climb.

John Higgins showed he was feeling the pressure of trying to retain his title after squandering a promising position against Wales' Ryan Day. Higgins led 5-3 overnight and quickly extended his advantage to three frames. But the 32-year-old then lost the next three in a row, punching the table in frustration and then flinging the white down the table after being pegged back to 6-6.

Higgins' mood was not improved by Day taking the 13th frame to lead for the first time. But the Scot finally rediscovered his touch to take the next two frames.

However, Day was looking a far better player as the match progressed and a run of 93 ensured the 28-year-old ended the day level at 8-8 ahead of this morning's decisive session.